Sunshine, football and good news for business

Businesses in the UK, hit by months of lockdown, can see light at the end of the tunnel, with good news on the jobs front and an economic boost from the good weather and European football.

The jobs market is “showing signs of recovery”, official figures suggest, with the unemployment rate falling and the number of job vacancies rising.

Unemployment stood at 4.7 per cent in the three months to April, down from 4.8 per cent previously, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

The number of job vacancies in March to May was 758,000 – just 27,000 below pre-pandemic levels.

However, unemployment among the young and those in hospitality remains high.

Despite the ongoing social distancing restrictions, as the sun shone, the total amount spent at UK pubs jumped 4.5 per cent over the weekend (12-13 June), compared to the previous weekend (5-6 June), likely thanks to football fans watching the opening games of Euro 2020, according to a survey.

Supermarket revenues were up 1.9 per cent, as people bought picnics to enjoy in the sunshine.

Both sectors also outpaced their pre-pandemic performance – pubs and bars were up 1.6 per cent compared to the same weekend in 2019, and supermarkets were up 16.3 per cent.

Petrol spend was also up 3.4 per cent week-on-week, with more friends and families taking advantage of the great weather to get together.

Rob Cameron, CEO of Barclaycard Payments, said: “It wasn’t just football fans that had cause to celebrate last weekend – the combination of sport and sunshine brought a welcome boost to the UK economy, especially for pubs, bars and supermarkets.

“While this continues to be a challenging trading period for the hospitality industry, this weekend’s figures are hopefully an early indicator of brighter times ahead when all lockdown restrictions are lifted.”

On the jobs front, Sam Beckett, ONS head of economic statistics, said: “The number of employees on payroll grew strongly in May, up by almost 200,000, although it is still over half a million down since the pandemic struck.

“Job vacancies continued to recover in the spring, and our early estimates suggest that by May the total had surpassed its pre-pandemic level, with strong growth in sectors such as hospitality.

“Meanwhile the redundancy rate remains subdued, while the number of employees on furlough has continued to decline.”

Unemployment rose sharply last year as the UK went through successive lockdowns, but it has gradually fallen in 2021 as restrictions are eased.

Firms appear to be expanding again, with the number of job vacancies in most industries above pre-pandemic levels in May, according to the ONS.

Similarly, the redundancy rate is back to levels seen before the spread of coronavirus.

However, the number of workers on company payrolls in the accommodation and food services sector, aged under 25, or living in London remains “well below” pre-pandemic levels, the ONS said.